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Final night of Lotus Festival promotes inclusion, unity



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Malian band Trio da Kali performs during the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival Saturday night in Buskirk Chumley Theatre. The trio performs traditional Mandé griot music with an emphasis on a soulful and expressive sound. Andrew Williams Buy Photos

People of all ages crowded the streets of downtown Bloomington on a cool September evening, exploring the variety of world cultures displayed by the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival. Sept. 30 was the festival's final night, and its festivities included many concerts and a parade. 

The Lotus Festival is known for its variety of musical performances, but the Arts Village on Sixth Street offered many other types of activities. Emily Hutchison, 35, from Indianapolis, said she enjoyed the hoola hooping area with her mom, dad, sister and niece. 

“We came all the way down for Lotus and the variety of music has been awesome,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison said she would be attending the festival parade, which took place at 8 p.m. down Washington Street. Anyone could participate in the parade and many people attended, waving multi-colored flags. Maison Cole and Adam Sowder, two parade participants, said they enjoyed the experience. 

“There were a lot of colors and sounds happening during the parade,” Sowder said. “And now we are going to fill our stomachs with some good curry tacos at the Food Truck Village.”

Cole said the diversity of cultures she saw while walking the streets was refreshing. 

“It was amazing,” Cole said. “We have lived here our whole lives, and this was a very good representation of Bloomington.” 

Further down the Arts Village, there was a small tent where Cameron Davis, a Lotus volunteer and IU graduate student, helped people in the Light Lab. The lab was hosted by the students in the Human Computer Interaction Design program at IU and it gave festival goers the opportunity to use LED lights to draw pictures.

“We started experimenting at the beginning of the summer,” Davis said. “I approached Lotus, and they were really on board with the idea.”

Throughout the festival, many store fronts opened their doors to festival goers, including Gather, located off of Walnut Street. Store owner Talia Halliday said the Gather storefront was the host to a group of drummers Friday night. 

“This is our first Lotus out here on the square,” Halliday said. “Some drummers came in and asked if they could play out front and it just evolved into something.”

At the Ivy Tech Community College tent, Raya Brass Band played for the second night in a row. The band is from New York, and they played a variety of Balkan music, New Orleans brass and punk.

One volunteer, Robin Lasek, said she watched the band Friday night when its members went into the crowd and danced with the audience. 

“That band was instrumental in kicking off this festival,” Lasek said. “The fact that they came into the crowd and just captured everyone, the response was amazing and overwhelming. I had tears in my eyes.”

While the Raya Brass Band played on Fourth Street, Meklit, an ethio jazz group took the stage at the Pictura Gallery/Old National Bank tent. Meklit’s lead singer, Meklit Hadero, said in an email their sound brings together pentatonic horns, high energy East African rhythms and a singer-songwriter's storytelling and strum. 

Lucy McKean, a venue volunteer committee member, watched Meklit at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Friday and said she was excited the band was playing Saturday night as well. She said knew the show would include a lot of dancing.

“Meklit gave a brilliant TED Talk a few years ago about finding music in everything,” McKean said. “And that’s a great meditation and way of looking at the world.”

Lotus not only hosted concerts at large tent venues, but also utilized local churches and theaters as performance venues. Trio de Kali performed Saturday night at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Trio de Kali is a group from southern Mali that performs soulful Mande griot traditions, according to the Lotus Festival website.

Fatin Keita Millard, from Guinea, and her husband Larry Millard, said the group tells the story of the Keita, the emperor of Mali in 1300 B.C. Fatin said all of Meklit's music is inspired by the historical figure. 

“We come to the festival every year,” Larry said. “Trio de Kali play the tradition. They are so incredible with their musicianship, but even more than that, they play from their heart.”

Lasek said the numbers and diversity of people are her favorite things about Lotus because the festival brings together so many people from all over the world. 

“It’s the people and the volunteers that make this festival what it is,” Lasek said. “It is truly one of a kind.”

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